Stopping bullets with sensitivity: Greenpoint students practice empathy to prevent gun violence

Starting early: Youngsters from Greenpoint’s PS 31 learned to be empathetic leaders during a weeks’ worth of lessons as part of the “Start With Hello” gun-violence-prevention program.
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These kids learned how saying hi can save a life.

Young scholars at a Greenpoint elementary school recently completed a weeks’ worth of events that taught them how a simple hello can go a long way toward stopping gun violence in classrooms, according to a mom who helped put together the preventative programming.

“We want to build a feeling of community and not isolate other kids,” said Anathea Simpkins, whose son is a kindergartener at Meserole Avenue’s PS 31. “The whole goal was to stop gun violence before it starts through education and outreach.”

The pint-sized pupils wrapped the five-day “Start With Hello” initiative — an educational effort started by parents whose children died in 2012 when a shooter gunned down 20 youngsters and six adults at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Conn. — on May 18, the same day a 17-year-old opened fire on his classmates and teachers at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, killing ten people.

And the lessons the local students learned throughout the week — which included learning how to say hello in several languages, and making sure no one ever eats or plays alone during lunch and recess — reinforced how empathy can help curb senseless violence as much as any legislation, according to Simpkins.

“Understand­ing the value of reaching out and including that child, and knowing different places where a child might feel alone — such as on the bus or playground — is powerful,” she said. “One simple effort could change their lives, or someone’s else life, forever.”

The program was the first of its kind to come to a New York City school, according to Simpkins, who said she couldn’t be happier with how it went, and that she hopes it will kick-start similar initiatives across the borough and beyond as students continue to advocate for gun-law reforms.

“The teachers really embraced it with open arms, and saw it as a way for them to help prevent gun violence,” she said. “And the kids showed they really do understand.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:44 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jamie from Cobble Hill says:
Nice, though this implies people who are shy or prefer solitude are inherently violent.
May 24, 2018, 6:45 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
"Say hi.... OR ELSE"

Why do people subject their children to this?
May 24, 2018, 10:14 am
SCR from Realityville says:
There are those,who,see it as imperative;to take GUNS away from criminals. For example,hardcore street-gangs,armed robbers;car-jackers,etc. And then,there are othes,who want GUNS taking-away;from lone-wolf psychopaths domestic abusers-or organized racists(White Supremacists),organizations. Unfortunately,they have never,so much:as seriously attempted-to work together to decrease the nubers of firearms available,throughout our entire nation. Fortunately,NYC's Zero-Tolerance,Anti-Gunlaws(you're so much as nabbed)in possession of"illegal"firearms;you do mandatory prison-time,has been rather successful-at locally reducing,those who fall victim to gun violence.
May 24, 2018, 5:57 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I’ll be teaching my kids how to defend themselves and how to use a firearm, thanks. It’s sad to see the kids learning nothing but how to be an easy target.
May 24, 2018, 6:22 pm
Anathea from Greenpoint says:
To clarify, Start With Hello is a program for little kids, during which there is absolutely no mention of guns or gun violence. It is simply a program that teaches kids to be more socially inclusive. There is never any discussion or outcasting of someone who wants to be alone. It's about simply saying hello to someone, inviting someone to play or eat with you, saying something nice--things that kids inherently like to do. If you would like to learn more about this and other Sandy Hook Promise programs, please visit
May 25, 2018, 12:12 pm
Concerned from BK says:
I hope ACS take the children away from that idiot promoting guns. WTF is wrong with people? The authorities will be contacted.
May 25, 2018, 4:32 pm
Teresa Toro from Greenpoint says:
We need to bring back shooting clubs in schools so kids learn how to defend themselves.
May 25, 2018, 11:02 pm
HONEY Pooter from Williamsburg says:
How many times do I have to say it to these kids?!? Don’t shoot each other!!! When I see those little girls in the picture, and read that they are this close to shooting one another I just want cry!! Because it makes me so angry!!
It’s time to start practicing, kids!!! Before you end up shooting each other !!!!!
May 27, 2018, 1:36 pm
Peace On Earth says:
Children - please stop shooting one another!!

Where does this awful blood-lust come from, children ?!??!!
May 28, 2018, 6:41 am
Marcy from Queens says:
How many children have to die before we do something !
May 28, 2018, 9:02 am

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